“John Wick: Chapter 2″ Review: Yeah, I’m Thinking He’s Back

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Directed by Chad Stahelski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Common, Ricardo Scarmarcio, Ruby Rose

It’s rare for surprise hits to strike twice at the theaters with great sequels but “John Wick: Chapter 2” proves that there is still indeed more brutal, action-packed fun to be had from “Baba Yaga.”  

Directed again by former stuntman turned director Chad Stahleski “John Wick: Chapter 2” is another symphonic concerto of violent spectacles punctuated by dry wit and it’s a joy for any action film junkie to watch.

“John Wick: Chapter 2” takes place less than a week after the events of the first film with ex-notorious hitman Wick taking care of one last item from the original; his beloved stolen Mustang. After taking out the Russian mob, again, to retrieve his car, Wick is confronted by an old employer from the past, an Italian mafia Don by the name of Santino D’Antonio whom Wick owes a blood debt for helping him complete “the impossible task” mentioned in the first film that helped earned him his freedom to be with his wife. Santino needs Wick for a hit job on his sister, who holds a seat he covets on the “High Council” of crime lords, but Wick refuses simply saying “he’s not that guy anymore.” Of course, this doesn’t go over well with Santino who forces his hand to make Wick execute this job, thus setting off a series of climatic events as the criminal underworld is once again re-entered by “Baba Yaga.”

Simply put, if you enjoyed the first film it’ll be hard not to dig this second installment into what will more than likely be the next big action film franchise.

(Seriously, who’s not excited to watch Keanu Reeves kill the shit out of people for two hours?)

“John Wick: Chapter 2” is as stylish as it was two years, combining brutal, cold-blooded violence with sharp, film-making precision while never losing its sense of levity with its trademark dry humor. Like the first, the stunts are well choreographed, the fire fights feel realistic (minus Kevlar tuxedos and seemingly everyone turning out to be an assassin), and the atmosphere and cinematography continues to exude the film’s refined, polished style.

Keanu Reeves continues to play Wick’s coldness and dry demeanor perfectly while delivering on some good jabs of humor in between executions. Ian McShane is delightfully charming again as Continental manager Winston. And newcomers to the franchise, Common and Ruby Rose, deliver on some great one-on-one action sequences with Keanu throughout the film. They all play off each other well and the cast feels organic even in this crazy fucked-up world of assassins.

(Also has anyone ever made holding a gun sideways cooler than John wick? Just saying haha)

But “Chapter 2” does more than simply rehash great things about the original; it builds upon the intriguing underworld it gave a glimpse into in the first film. The world of mob boss hierarchies, assassins, and criminal hotel managers is given a wider view in the new film, even expanding upon subtle mannerisms and other personal dynamics of the characters.

In this film we learn more about the leadership of the criminal underworld and its major players in its universe. We also start to see the vast scope of how far it reaches across cities and continents; it’s almost more like a secret society, rather than a criminal enterprise.

It’s a fun glimpse into that world but the film, like the original, never delves too deeply into the exposition of the background and still keeps it delightfully mysterious even at the end.

(Also, MINOR SPOILER 100% less cute dog deaths, so those who get emotional over this can rest easy) 

The film does get perhaps a tad bit bloated because the world of John Wick grows bigger in “Chapter 2” creating less of a narrative focus compared to the 2014 film’s tighter revenge plot. If anything, more could have been done to illuminate Wick’s backstory which still remains cryptic two movies in. We all know he was/is a notorious hitman but how did he get there? How did he meet his wife? And how is he so God damn good at killing people??

(Seriously, the dude is James Bond, Jason Bourne and Leon The Professional combined into one!)

These questions could/should be answered in the next film and while these don’t distract much at all from the obvious joy of watching Keanu Reeves murder mob goons for two hours it leaves just the tiniest of unsatisfied feelings down in this film-goer’s gut.

“John Wick: Chapter 2” despite some minor flaws is still a damn good time at the movie theaters and fans of the original will more than likely enjoy this one just as much, if not more.

If a film like “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage” is the Monster Energy drinking, obnoxious, EDM blasting child of action flicks this year then “John Wick: Chapter 2” is its more sophisticated, chardonnay drinking, sharper-focused, classical music listening older brother.

So please, Hollywood, let’s try to have more films like this moving forward, where style isn’t confused with explosions and dumb one-liners, ok? Thank you.


4.5 out of 5

Until next time, John. Drive safely…

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